(Staff writer Carroll Rogers is filling in for David O’Brien this series.)
Philadelphia - Since the Braves left Washington on the night of July 22 and headed for Miami, they’ve won 11 out of 15 games. Not bad, right? Except when you consider the Nationals have won 12 out of 16 games since then, which means while the Braves have been winning, they’ve also managed to lose one-half game to the Nationals in the process.
After splitting four games with the Nationals in that weekend series in DC, the Braves were 3 ½ games out. They enter tonight’s game against the Phillies four games out.
Nothing like the Nationals’ past two late-night wins over the Astros to twist the knife a little for the Braves.
The worst team in the majors had taken the team with the best record in the majors to extra innings in back-to-back games at Minute Maid Park and lost both of them in pretty excruciating fashion.
Last night the Astros trailed 3-2 in the 12th but thought they had tied it on a deep fly ball by Brett Wallace only to watch center fielder Roger Bernadina disappear behind one of those padded pillars in the wall in left center and come out with the ball.
As reliever Craig Stammen told my friends the Nats hacks last night: “He caught it and I was like, ‘OK, is he dead or alive?’” Stammen said. “And he was alive.”
The night before, the Astros let Bernadina score the winning run in the 11th inning of a 5-4 game after botching a bunt attempt by Kurt Suzuki. Astros pitcher Wilton Lopez and first baseman Wallace collided on the play, and Wallace threw the ball away as Bernadina made his way around the bases.
So it seems no matter how well the Braves are playing these days they’re not making up any ground. If the playoffs start today, the Braves are in a one-game wild card playoff against the Pirates and we’re all talking about NLCS’s past and Jerry Meals and Sid Bream and you name it.
If the Braves want a little more security than that, they’ve got six games left against the Nationals (Aug. 20-22 and Sept. 14-16) to do something about it head-to-head. Otherwise they’ve got to mind their Ps and Qs. That starts tonight.
The Braves got shut out by Cole Hamels last night. It’s going to happen. But they’ve got to win the ones they figure to win, and that would be games like tonight when Tim Hudson (11-4, 3.45 ERA) faces Kyle Kendrick (4-9, 4.45) in the rubber game of this series.
Hudson has been the Braves stopper for the past few years, and this season has been no different. He’s pitched 10 times after a Braves loss, and in those games he’s gone 7-2 with a 3.84 ERA. He pitched against the Phillies twice in July, allowing them only two earned runs in 12 2/3 innings in two wins – 6-2 on July 29 at Turner Field and 5-0 on July 6 at Citizens Bank Park.
As much as the stats say Hudson should be a heavy favorite over Kendrick, the Braves know that’s not the case. Kendrick seems to pitch as well against the Braves as any team he faces. He’s 6-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 17 games (11 starts) against the Braves for his career. He pitched against Hudson in that game July 6 and shut out the Braves for seven innings before the bullpen blew it behind him.
Freddie Freeman drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth and Brian McCann followed him with a grand slam off reliever Antonio Bastardo.
As we saw last night, the Phillies may be in last place but they still have the pieces to inflict some harm on the Braves like Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, etc.
“Jimmy is still Jimmy,” Chipper Jones said last night. “Jimmy won an MVP. Howard won an MVP. (Chase) Utley is certainly capable of winning an MVP. They’ve got some players you better respect over there or they’re going to get you.”
Battle Ax comparisons
Someone on Twitter asked yesterday about how Chipper Jones’ season at age 40 compares to some of the other old-timers, or something along those lines. So I poked around baseball-reference.com today and found that he was in some pretty good company with what he’s got going so far this season. Entering Wednesday’s series finale against the Phillies, Chipper was hitting .320, with a .395 on-base percentage and a .514 slugging percentage.
Here’s a look at where he would stack up compared to other players in seasons when they turned 40, with 310 or more plate appearances:
1. Ty Cobb .357 1927
2. Sam Rice .349 1930
3. Moises Alou .341 2007
4. Pete Rose .325 1981
5. Chipper Jones .320 2012
1. Ty Cobb .440 1927
2. Willie Mays .425 1971
3. Rickey Henderson .423 1999
4. Sam Rice .407 1930
5. Edgar Martinez .406 2003
6. Chipper Jones .395 2012
1. Harold Baines .533 1999
2. Moises Alou .524 2007
3. Chipper Jones .514 2012
Some links for your viewing pleasure:
My esteemed colleague Mark Bradley shared his thoughts on the possibility of seeing center fielder Michael Bourn in the uniform of a division rival next year. Other teams emerging as candidates for the impending free agent’s services are the Phillies and the Nationals. The Braves want him back, and GM Frank Wren has said so, but seems the price is only going to climb.
We have the video made by @rickymast, paying a little homage to Chipper, and his twitter account @realcj10. Chipper said last night he watched the video and laughed his, well, rear end off.
Also you have Gregg Doyel of CBSsports.com making a case for Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel for NL Cy Young. There’s some compelling stuff in there and some numbers you’ll enjoy.
1. Bourn CF
2. Prado LF
3. Heyward RF
4. Jones 3B
5. Freeman 1B
6. Uggla 2B
7. Ross C
8. Janish SS
9. Hudson P